Leaving the verdant lake district of the Rideau region we headed to the north east of Ontario where more lakes abound. Based on a recommendation from Annabelle we headed to Lake Simcoe, but never actually made it there…. Accommodation shortages meant instead we found a cheap motel between Collingwood and Wasaga Beach, so that was where we ended up. The minute we arrived the Indian born family were a delight. Four generations lived on site and Josh, the only child of the family, aged 9 became best buddies with Fred from the minute we arrived.
We awoke to eggs boiled by Raisa the grandmother and formidably capable matriarch who ran the motel. This was not a B&B but we were being treated like family. Fred and Josh had decided the night before that they wanted to go to the beach the next day together, permission granted from Josh’s family we drove off to Wasaga Beach. It is the longest freshwater beach in the world at 14km of white sand. Beach 1 had the feel of Skegness, if Skegness had wonderful weather! However, as we walked down the sand dunes we escaped to Beach 2 where trees provided shade and a cooling breeze over picnic benches. Those of you who know Dean, or who have read earlier blogs, will know that this is essential to a successful day at the beach since Dean likes neither sun, heat, sand or water…..! Thankfully the lovely spot we found meant we had 2 brilliant days with an additional family member in Josh for both of them. We also had managed to acquire an inflatable boat and oars which we have since found room for in my rucksack and strapped the oars to the outside, and I’m pleased to report that only one oar was lost between Toronto and Vancouver!
As our first day had been so successful at Wasaga Beach we added an extra night and had 3 nights at the Pleasant Mount Motel. At the end of our first day on the beach Raisa cooked us a vegetarian pasta with chili which was gorgeous, this was delivered to us on our porch as a ‘thank you’ for taking Josh out. So after 2 lovely beach days we left with the boys having had a great time and new friends made. We also left with clean laundry as Raisa had done that for us all for free!!
Niagara Falls was our destination for midday and we took the most direct route through breath taking scenery. The roads were endlessly long and straight over undulating geography. We got some fabulous pictures when we dropped over the top of one peak of the road that stretched ahead for over a 100 miles over the rolling hills.
We arrived in Niagara absolutely starving so on the outskirts we headed into a bar / diner on a parking lot. Dean was convinced it was going to be a strip joint when we approached the darkened windows, having had a similar experience in the States as a shocked 17 year old – this is one of Fred’s favourite stories about his Dad. Relief all round that it was a sports bar where all the women were fully clothed!
Watered and fed we braved ourselves for the onslaught of Niagara Falls. As a person who doesn’t queue I had nearly canned the idea of this visit, however a number of FB friends had said we ‘must’ do it so here we were. Unbelievably, for peak season and at midday, we drove straight into the town found parking and walked 10 minutes along the river that feeds The Falls before we found ourselves alongside the stunning ‘horseshoe’ fall. It really is impressive and certainly beats Iguazu Falls on the Brazilian / Argentinian / Paraguay border. In searing heat, we got the pictures we wanted, wrote a postcard to Grandma who has this on her bucket list & sent it from Niagara Falls postbox, and set off to find a place to sleep that night. We had been told to visit Niagara-on-the-Lake and took a scenic drive along the gorge that leads from The Falls to Lake Ontario. Stopping for fresh cherries on the roadside some helpful ladies from Niagara-on-the-Lake said we wouldn’t get any cheap motels there (it was too chi chi!) so recommended we drive through Niagara-on-the-Lake and carry on to St Catherines, where there were 2 cheap motels on the highway interchange and one with a pool. Hooray!! We were in desperate need of a cooling off, however dodgy the motel or pool may be. An hour later we arrived circa 5pm. Dean had a ‘funny moment’ when I came back to the car with the great news that it was in budget, had a pool, and they had a vacancy, suggesting that it wasn’t to his liking being on a highway interchange. Heatstroke and exhaustion from a long day and driving had clearly got the better of him so he was overruled. Fred and I laid him down in a darkened room whilst I went off in search of supplies ie food, chilled wine and a bar of Hearsheys cookies and cream (this is a combo that never fails to work, but which was not covered in my ‘Far From Help’ medical course in Aviemore……). Revived he joined us in the pool and Fred invented more complicated games with fluid rules. I think banking would be a great career for Fred….
Another solid nights sleep and we set off for Toronto. Being the terrible planners we are on this trip we arrived without tickets or reservation for the revolving restaurant at midday at the CN Tower to a massive crush. Given my issue with queuing, when I identified there was no queue for the line those with reservations for the Tower 360 Degree Restaurant we threw ourselves into that one. We blagged it through the first few attendants and security. It looked like we would be undone as we approached the final hurdle of tickets being scanned. Nonchalantly we tailgated a large family and successfully got through the 4th round. As we stood in what seemed to be a last and unavoidable queue a manager came through the line. I grabbed him did our ‘Bumbling Brit’ bit. Yes, he said, we were in the wrong queue for the restaurant, no I replied we don’t have a reservation, ok he said I’ll take you through as a walk in. 5 minutes later we were seated and it had taken us all of 15 minutes. Perhaps I should go into banking….?!?
Thanks to Fiona, Michael and Annabelle for the recommendation to have lunch in the revolving restaurant rather than just do the visit up the tower. The food was wonderful, sadly we had to enjoy it with tap water as the £30 per head was outside our daily budget, however the wine list for each course and dish looked amazing – another time!
After a jolly good walk round Toronto we drove out through Mississauga to the Super 8, near the airport, where we would spend our last night in Ontario before flying to Vancouver. A lovely small indoor pool with a scalding hot tub set us up for a great night’s sleep.
Breakfast was provided with this accommodation, and we got to make our own waffle’s on a real waffle iron. Fred’s day was made with the discovery of whipped butter to accompany the maple syrup in clogging his arteries. LOL - as Fred would say. With 11 hours to kill before we flew and no appetite for more sightseeing we had a swim and then settled on the local Imax, 2 blocks away, on the opening day of ‘The Secret Lives of Pets’. Fred had been nagging us to see it at some time during our trip and couldn’t believe that he was going on the opening day. Loaded up with bottles of water and unopened cans of Diet Decaff Coke, which we couldn’t take on the flight, we settled in for a low cost movie viewing (half the price of the UK). What a brilliant film! Seats were unbelievably comfy too with tons of leg room.
We then headed to the airport, dropped the hire car off and waited until we could go through security. 5 hours before our flight we settled into the Premium Lounge that Dean gets access to through an anomaly of how long he has had his bank account with NatWest. This is proving to be a real winner and cost saving! Luxurious surroundings with unlimited food and drink. Mindful that 5 hours of unlimited drink prior to flying comes with its own risks, I found the Club Soda. 4 hours before the flight I felt that I had restrained myself for long enough and taught a couple of Canadians at the bar how to make a G&T using ‘farmhouse measures’. Soon they were planning out our British Columbia trip and, with laptop in hand using Bing Maps, we had a complete itinerary in short shrift. I knew there was a reason we had left it until the night before we flew out…..!
The 5 hour flight, landing at 3am Toronto time but 1am local Vancouver time, passed mostly in sleep. So good was the hospitality we had enjoyed at Toronto I don’t even remember taking off. We picked up our baggage (only one of the 2 oars missing) and caught a cab to the dingiest of motels, another Super 8. We awoke to a pigeon roaming the landing! However, sleep was good and we were refreshed ready for breakfast. Fred was slumbering still. We took it in turns to grab the sparsest of breakfasts in a desolate windowless dining room. Muffins and hard boiled eggs were dropped into our, now famous, Wilko bag given to me by Dr Chris for our car journey. We eventually woke Fred just before 11am (2pm Toronto time!) and caught the mini bus to the airport to get our car.
We now have a little red compact Chevy that our things barely fit in. But we love it! Its wonderfully over spec’d with reversing camera, TV screen, great stereo, and sun roof – bizarre.
We headed straight out of Vancouver up through Hope, Chiliwack and other wonderfully named places. After the flatlands of Ontario we were ready for the stunning mountain scenery that started straight away. 4 hours later we arrived in Kamloops and eagle eyed Dean spotted a motel with beautiful views. We pulled in and I was sent in to negotiate. It looked out of our price bracket, but we felt in need of a more aesthetically pleasing stop than the last couple of nights. The lovely owner duly obliged and agreed to a price, plus a kitchen apartment thrown in, that we were looking for. So as I sit here now, we are overlooking the most beautiful town, surrounded by mountains, in ‘Injin Country’ (yes there is a reservation here, a totem pole welcomes and warns visitors, and I was served by a lady from the First Nations in Safeway), having enjoyed a great home cooked dinner, ready to be woken by the sun coming up, and a morning swim in the pool here. Will be hard to leave but we will only have 2 nights here before we head to the Rockies proper, taking the highest road in Canada :-0
For me this trip is all about having a great adventure with my family. Its taken years for us to finally stop talking about it and do it - simply because it both excites and frightens the life out me! So I'm stepping out of corporate life, where I singularly failed to achieve a work/life balance....to experience different cultures and spend time with those I love xx